Saturday, June 25, 2011

No Future For Set Top Boxes

Australia has been broadcasting television in both digital and analogue formats for ten years since 2001. TV began in Australia in 1956 and PAL colour broadcasting began in the early 1970s.

Australian made equipment can be used in South Africa, but needs to be retuned by a technician since South African analogue broadcasts use a sound-vision separation standard found nowhere else other than the Irish Republic. This was done, apparently, to protect local manufacturers from cheaper, more attractive imports.

Although digital television receivers have been available since 2001, and new analogue sets have not been sold for some years, the Australian government became concerned that, particularly older, Australians on pensions, benefits and otherwise limited incomes might find themselves not able to watch television in 2013 when the analogue transmitters will be shut down.

To this end, a number of households have been deemed eligible to receive - at taxpayer expense - a 'free' digital terrestrial receiver (set top box) or digital receiver providing analogue output compatible with the AV input terminals found on all but the oldest television sets still in service.

As someone with more than a passing interest in technology, my reaction was that this was good money after bad. If really concerned about indigent members of our community, surely the $300 per household budgeted for the STB programme would be better spent on a new digital television?

What follows is the text of a letter I composed to my local member who responded promptly with a wealth of information about the programme. For better or worse it has been running for a while and the government is pressing on with it.

My concern is that, by 2013 if not sooner, a significant number of those who have benefited from the programme could find themselves stuck with a fancy set top box connected to an obsolete analogue TV receiver at the end of its useful life.

As we all know, a cashed up government in search of political advantage never allows common sense reality to interfere with what it perceives as a vote winning agenda.

This is an edited version of a letter I wrote following the budget announcement. At the time I was not aware that the set top box (digital terrestrial receiver) programme was already under way.

I stand by my contention that the programme is not necessary at this point, while analogue broadcasting is to continue for a further two years, and that the amounts from $308 - $350 per household mentioned as the likely installation cost are excessive.

If the object of the exercise is that every low income, technically challenged household should start receiving additional free-to-air digital channels immediately, there may be some point to it, bearing in mind that almost all popular content is available via analogue transmissions. I have a digital television, as well as a digital tuner coupled to a conventional television, but 90% of what I watch is available on analogue.

My set top box is connected to a 12-year old analogue television. Its a moot point which device will die first. The STB receives all free to air digital channels, was very simple to connect and activate, and cost about $50 retail from Dick Smith who would have been pleased to explain to me how to install it had I needed their assistance.

Ongoing support is not an issue since no one bothers to repair cheap devices such as STBs when they break down. With labour costs in the electronics industry greater than $100 per hour, and a shortage of technicians, this is hardly surprising.

1. By 2013, if not earlier, the majority of Australian households will already be receiving digital television by one means or another. For the federal government to provide assistance will not be necessary, any more than it was for innovations such as colour television, the video cassette recorder, the home computer, the mobile telephone, the DVD player or the digital camera. Australians love new technology and have consistently enjoyed one of the highest per capita uptakes of new devices in the developed world.

2. $350 per eligible household is an excessive amount for a device which is both simple to install, currently retails from $50 - $100, and is becoming cheaper by the day. Connecting and installing a set top box is not rocket science.

3. Flashing this sort of money in front of third-party contractors who can source these devices for next to nothing from China, & install them in less than ten minutes, is setting the government, and the taxpayer, up for yet another rort which will do nothing for employment and manufacturing in Australia.

In support of the propositions above:

• Analogue/CRT television sets have not been sold for some years. Analogue television sets currently in use are nearing the end of their useful life and the number still in service by 2013 is likely to be small. The life expectancy of an analogue/CRT television set is between ten and 15-years, with the cheaper brands often failing inside ten years.

• As conventional television sets age, the picture quality declines. The addition of a set top box will do nothing to enhance the picture quality or longevity of older sets. All analogue television sets still in service by 2013 will be “old”.

• Small digital television sets are available for less than$400 and getting cheaper. If the Federal Government is determined to assist needy households with $350, then this money is best spent in the form of a rebate against the purchase of a new, digital television receiver.

• Set top boxes are not designed and built to withstand heavy use or last a long time. Regardless of the manufacturer’s label, most are sourced from the same factories in South China and intended as a stopgap measure pending the purchase of a digital television receiver. I have bought five different STDs from reputable retailers since 2005. One failed during the 12-month warranty period and was repaired, not replaced. Two developed faults outside the warranty period and had to be junked.

• At today’s prices, and getting cheaper, $350 is almost enough for a modest personal video recorder (HD PVR) with built in digital tuner that can be used with both analogue & digital television sets. This is a much better investment of $350 than a set top box.

• Of all consumer electronic devices to reach the market in recent decades, the set top box is one of the simplest to install and use. If you can connect a DVD player to a TV, you can connect a STB. Tuning is automatic; there is nothing to do as long as one’s TV has AV terminals, preferably more than one set of terminals or the DVD player or VCR will have to be disconnected to make way for the STB and/or an additional switching device to enable STB, DVD player & VCR to be connected simultaneously. The oldest analogue television sets, and some sets do last between ten and 20-years, do not have AV terminals and here the only way to connect a STB or DVD player is through a VCR or other conversion device. In other words, connecting a STB to an analogue television more than about ten years old is possible, but not recommended.

• Digital television reception does not require a new aerial in good reception areas. If one’s existing antenna system works adequately for analogue reception it will be perfectly satisfactory for digital reception, no matter what installers hungry for business tell one. In many areas with uncertain analogue reception, digital reception is superior – again without the need to upgrade the antenna unless its already faulty.

In short, most households are likely to have at least one new digital television set by 2013. For people who find that their analogue receivers are still performing satisfactorily, installing a set top box is both cheap and simple. In the not too distant past both television sets and video cassette recorders had to be tuned manually, channel by channel. Most people managed perfectly well using the supplied instructions. Many of us routinely have to resort to the manual twice a year for the purpose of resetting the digital clocks found in so many household devices. This is a chore, but its manageable.

Many elderly people, it is true, do struggle with technology such as mobile phones, computers and the internet. Communities, for the most part, already have support in place. It has never hitherto, to the best of my knowledge, been suggested that the government should supply these devices to pensioners, install them in their homes, and provide ongoing support. A significant number of older people can relate to being shown how to use a mobile phone by, for example, grandchildren.

I believe that there would be no shortage of volunteers forthcoming to assist elderly people in the change from analogue to digital television, including radio amateurs such as myself, CB radio operators and the like. Our first digital television receiver was delivered and installed by the retailer who set it up in our house at no extra cost.

If there are indeed households in Australia so disadvantaged that they do not have a television receiver, then perhaps we should be looking at supplying them with one although, as I have pointed out, the government has not to my knowledge previously directed social security payments – for this is what the programme amounts to – towards particular household items.

The latest JB HiFi catalogue features a 22” Teac digital television receiver with built in DVD player for less than $300 while the taxpayer is expected to contribute more than $300 for a cheap and nasty set top box which, with a bit of luck, will last at least as long as the ageing analogue television receiver to which it is intended to be connected. This simply does not make sense, and I can’t help feeling that our parliamentarians – as busy as I know them to be with a wide variety of issues – have been very badly advised concerning the current state of consumer electronics.

Finally, should the government’s set top box scheme go ahead as planned, then – perhaps - it should be looking at using paid volunteers, as in the case of the forthcoming census, rather than third party contractors. I know that I would be more than happy to go around installing set top boxes, not that I anticipate much demand for them, at a rate equivalent to a day’s wage.

Thank you for your interest and, in particular, the work you are doing regarding the highspeed broadband network, another area bedevilled by misconceptions and misinformation. To know how the WWW works one needs to spend time on it, and I welcome your presence on Twitter which helped to inspire this letter.

Monday, June 13, 2011

And did these feet ...

In the noise surrounding the Middle East conflict, and the entire Middle East - for one reason or another, not least being the despotic, sexist and anachronistic nature of its various regimes - is mired in conflict, it is easy to forget the historical origins of the region formerly known as Palestine and how it came to be divided between two groups of people with an equally valid claim to some part of it.

A Palestinian of my acquaintance, no friend to Israel since his family left Haifa in 1948, who grew up a Christian in Lebanon said, "We were all Jews once, you know. We are the same people".

The accursed legacy of the process that began during the Second World War was the removal and relocation of entire populations, voluntary sometimes but mostly forced, thanks to the racist ideology which divides people along ethnic, cultural and religious lines and conflates all with "nationalism". Nationalism, not to be confused with a natural love of one's place of birth and upbringing, is the wretched doctrine in the name of which unparalleled atrocities were committed in Europe and elsewhere in comparatively recent times.

Although the forces of nationalism began stirring in the 19th Century, most European nations prior to 1914 were polyglot, multicultural and multinational. People other than those who emigrated to the new world tended to live their lives close to where they were born, irrespective of who happened to be ruling that territory at that time. For the most part linguistic and cultural differences were tolerated, although there might be tension between catholic and protestant, Jew and gentile. People were defined by occupation and religion rather than language and culture per se. The evolution of nationalism was a two-edged sword: useful and positive in pursuit of liberty and democracy; unspeakably evil when wielded in the cause of avarice and power.

The geographical expression that is Palestine has become one of those areas of conflict in which evil is done in the name of good, and murder is committed in the name of justice. There is a belief that the former Turkish subjects of Palestine should have become independent after 1917, something on which most agree; but no consensus concerning who the rightful owners of the land, if any, truly are. Paramount for those of the Jewish faith was the need to have absolute control over their affairs in a land where, for the first time since the Roman invasion, they were once again a majority. It was felt, with considerable justification, that nowhere in the world where Jews had been in a minority since the Diaspora had they been able to live in peace and security.

The defeat of the Turks in 1917 meant that once again people of the Jewish faith might aspire to living in a home of their own, for many their ancestral homeland; for many more their spiritual home. That was, and still is, a problem for those Palestinians who were Islamic, or Christian. It was not a problem for their former Turkish rulers who practised their own form of multiculturalism and tolerated all who did not challenge their overlordship at a time when nationalism was not the divisive force it has since become.

Our knowledge of the ancient land which the Romans called Palestine begins with the Old Testament. In the centuries before the birth of the Jewish sage whom so-called Christians have taken to be their own, a number of Greek colonies shared the land with the Kingdom of the Hebrews. Large numbers of Greeks settled in Palestine and Greek was a common language alongside Aramaic and Hebrew. In time the Greek cities states, for there was no Greece, and their respective colonies fell to the Romans. Palestine became a Roman province with a Jewish puppet king. Most of what followed has been the subject of generations of scripture lessons.

About seven centuries after the birth of Christ, Islam began to expand in all directions from its birthplace in the sands of the Arabian peninsula, a land formerly populated by pagans, Jews of the Diaspora and Jewish converts from among the indigenous people. Although Judaism is not a missionary religion, Jews were tolerated in Arabia and Judaism was the first monotheistic religion to take root in the region.

At the time of Mahomet's rise to power Judaism was gaining ground in Arabia and had spread as far as India. It would not be drawing too long a bow to say that this was where the struggle between Islam and its progenitors began, for the early followers of Mahomet did not tolerate other religions or beliefs and were part of a nomadic culture that thrived on conflict.

Mahomet built on the teachings of Moses and Jesus, added his own take on things and claimed to be the last and greatest prophet of the God of Abraham. His followers set about the conversion of pagan, Jew and Christian, by the sword if necessary. The peoples of Arabia were not politically united by this process and remained a collection of independent, nomadic and often feuding tribes, ripe for military conquest by a more co-ordinated and focused nation. Such a people were the Turks, themselves former nomads of Caucasian origin who had embraced Islam, although at least one Turkic tribe became Jews and moved north-west into what is now the Russian Federation.

By the end of the first millenium Palestine, which had survived as part of the Graeco-Christian Eastern Roman Empire after the fall of Rome to Alaric's Goths in 410 AD, had been overrun by the Seljuk Turks, about to become a battleground between predominantly Norman knights of the 'barbaric' Christian west and its Turkish overlords. Palestine was a polyglot territory of former citizens of the Greek and Roman Empires, Turks from the Caucasus and the many Hebrews who had not joined the Diaspora after the revolt against Rome. Some had converted to Islam under Turkish rule. Although there were desert nomads, predominantly Bedouin in the south, Palestine was never what might be described in purely ethnic terms as Arab.

Turkish imperial rule lasted in the former Roman province and Hebrew Kingdom of Palestine until 1917, a period of about eight centuries. The Turks were tolerant of other religions and nationalities, profited from taxing pilgrims and visitors to the Holy Land but otherwise neglected the territory which, by the later 19th Century, enjoyed the reputation of being the poorest regions in the imperium, a waste of malarial coastal swamps, semi-desert and degraded farmland barely fit for goats. When European Jews seeking to escape persecution and periodic murderous pogroms in Imperial Russia sought to return to Palestine, the Turks welcomed and encouraged them as a valuable addition to the flagging local economy. That is not to say that the province did not already have a Jewish character in the persons of the many descendants of the original Hebrews who had survived successive waves of invasion, the fall of the Temple, the Crusades to flourish under relatively benign Turkish rule.

During World War I the Allies, principally the British and the French, fanned the flames of nascent Arab nationalism in what is now Saudi Arabia and sought to unite the desert tribes against the Turks. Islamists in Palestine saw this as an opportunity to take control of that territory once the Turks, inevitably, were defeated and driven out, the rump of Turkey surviving in what was formerly the hub of the Greek speaking Eastern Roman Empire. The British, seeking to enlist the aid of Christians, Jews and Muslims, indeed any residents of Palestine not ethnically Turkish, secretly promised a 'free' Palestine to both Jew and Muslim, Christians throwing their lot in with whomever they chose. How this was to be achieved was never spelt out in detail.

In 1919 the fate of territories forfeited by Austria, Bulgaria, Germany and Turkey was decided by the League of Nations. Areas such as German New Guinea, Palestine and German South-West Africa, deemed too backward and undeveloped, as well as ethnically diverse, to achieve independence were placed in the care of one or another of the allied nations. Palestine became Britain's responsibility, and an embarrassment, as it had been promised to two groups of people divided by religion if only partly by their ethnic origin.

Most people accept that there is no such thing as a Jewish race. Semitic people originated in the Middle East and followers of all religions are found among them, predominantly Judaism and Islam with large Christian minorities, not surprising in view of the common Old Testament heritage of all three. Thanks to the Diaspora, there are also Asian Jews, African Jews, Turkic Jews and so-called European Jews who themselves fall into two distinct ethnic groups. Much research has gone into unravelling whether there is in fact a Jewish gene. That need not concern us here. Strictly speaking there are no significant biological differences between people and the concept of race is seen as a nonsense by most scientists. What truly differentiates people is culture and social and political development.

The problem, for the British, of what to do about Palestine was overtaken by events in the 1930s. Islamic separatists, thinking that they correctly read the portents, threw their lot in with the Nazis against the Jews not only of Palestine but of Europe and the world. That was their first mistake, one of many leading to the polarisation in Palestine that exists to this day. For strategic reasons, if no other, while engaged in a war to the death with Hitler the British elected to stand fast in Palestine.

During the war years Palestine became a beacon of hope for the surviving Jews of Europe and their supporters in all parts of what remained of a once civilized world. Even Russia, which had its share of Jewish blood, Russian, Ukrainian, Baltic and Polish on its hands, threw its weight in behind the long cherished dream of the restoration of Palestine and voted in favour of a Jewish national homeland in the United Nations.

Once Britain saw that the United Nations, apparently, had the matter in hand it wasted no time in withdrawing from Palestine. The UN had partitioned Palestine along ethnic lines with Jerusalem to be an open city. Israel occupied two islands of land joined by a narrow corridor with only limited access to the sea. It comprised those areas in which a majority of inhabitants professed to be Jewish. It was a land of few resources other than agriculture which had flourished thanks to the introduction by 19th Century immigrants of European and North American technology. In strictly economic terms, the lands allocated to Islamic and other non-Jewish peoples were even poorer, having developed little during the centuries of the Turkish imperium. They did, however, enjoy the advantage of powerful, well disposed neighbours like Egypt and greater access to the sea.

The peoples of Jewish Palestine accepted the decision of the United Nations. They had achieved independence in their homeland for the first time since the Roman invasion more than 1500-years earlier. Their borders were, militarily, indefensible and defended by a home guard armed with little more than obsolete rifles. There were no armoured brigades, machine gun regiments or artillery battalions. There was no air force, and the only naval protection had been provided by the now departed British. All this might have been of no consequence, but for the resolution of Israel's "Arab" neighbours to take control of the Eastern Mediterranean seaboard and destroy the fledgling Jewish state. Whatever their motives, it had nothing to do with the well being and future prosperity of those Palestinian residents who had chosen not to become citizens of Israel.

The forces of Egypt, Iraq and Jordan were trained and equipped by the British, those of Syria by the French, although not for the express purpose of demolishing Israel. In 1948 the poorly armed and equipped Israeli Defence Force received no aid from the Western allies who were preoccupied with the Cold War and the necessity of not offending the oil producing nations of the Middle East. As in the Spanish Civil War, military assistance arrived in the form of volunteers, many World War II veterans, from all parts of the world. Material, much of it captured from the defeated Germans in the closing months of the war, was largely sourced from Eastern Europe with - for reasons best known to themselves at the time - the tacit support of the Soviets. Much of it, including former Luftwaffe aircraft, came from Czechoslovakia.

There is a delicious irony in a ruined Germany and a Stalinist Russia atoning in some small way for the millions of Jews who died at their hands. Decades later it emerged that anti-Jewish sentiment was alive and well in Poland and Russia. Israel was seen as the humane solution to their Jewish problem and South-Eastern Europe had itself at various times in its history suffered at the hands of Islamic invaders. As more recent events in the Balkans have tragically demonstrated, the Europeans have long memories.

In 1948, a then puny Israel was invaded from all sides by Syrian, Egyptian, Jordanian and Iraqi forces. The result seemed a foregone conclusion and, in retrospect, it is surprising that at least some nations were not standing by to assist in the evacuation of Israel. What happened next is the stuff of legend, and also the genesis of the some of the current problems in the Middle East.

Initially a defensive war and a struggle for survival in the face of overwhelming odds, an Israeli defence force on the offensive took control of areas necessary for the future defence of Israel. This was regrettably, but necessarily, at the expense of the territory formerly allocated by the 1947 partition to its non-Jewish majority. Many, who had sided with the Egyptian and Arab invaders, fled. Their hosts and former allies rewarded them by settling them in camps and discouraging assimilation and immigration to other parts of the world on the grounds that they would one day return, the day when Israel was finally destroyed.

It was to be another 20-years before an attempt, again involving members of the former United Arab Republic, was made to destroy Israel. This time the invaders faced an army of native Israelis, conscripts trained, armed and motivated in a way that made them the envy of professional soldiers the world over. The invaders, notably the Egyptian forces, also largely conscripts but without the same resolve, were routed and Israel looked to further consolidate its natural defences at the expense of its neighbours. Such is the fortune of war.

The real losers in all this were, of course, the so-called Palestinians. Perhaps the majority of non-Jewish peoples in those lands awarded them by the United Nations in 1947 would have been content with their lot, become part of an inevitable economic union with Israel and even opted, in some cases, to move to Israel and take up citizenship, as many Christians, Muslims and assorted unbelievers have done.

Their neighbours, in a strange melange of religious fanaticism and territorial avarice, made this impossible in the short term. Egypt eventually reached an accord with Israel, but not before a third war in 1973. Iraq, Syria and Iran after 1979 have continued to underwrite assaults on Israeli civilians and to fuel conflict in the regime. Iraq began falling apart after its invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and was occupied by NATO forces, for better or worse, in 2003; not before Saddam Hussein succeeded in slaughtering thousands of Persians, marsh Arabs, Kurds and other ethnic minorities. Had the League of Nations been prescient in 1919 there probably would never have been an Iraq, an ethnic patchwork which found a shaky unity under the rule of oligarchs and dictators.

Rapprochement between Israel and the so-called Palestinian territories is within reach, but only when nations like Iran and Syria recognise Israel's right to exist as a multicultural nation state and all involved eschew violence against, particularly, civilians as a means to an end which can never be achieved: the elimination of Israel and the creation of a pan-Arab hegemony in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Ironically, a strong, secure and prosperous Israel is the best hope for an autonomous non-Jewish Palestinian state. Iran and Syria, however, have other fish to fry, and the region will remain at risk until such time as both nations embrace secular social democracy and renounce war, territorial ambitions and support for international terrorism.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Israel - Birth of a Nation

James Stuart came to my attention as a result of reading a post on another forum. What follows are, apparently, his words. I can find no fault with them. That being said, we can never have enough evidence in an historical debate and no interpretation is set in concrete.

Millions of people in the ME can be broadly described, in ethnic terms, as Semitic. This includes most Egyptians and many people with ancient roots in the former Roman Province of Palestine, irrespective of religion.

Prior to the establishment of the Hebrew Kingdom in what is now, roughly speaking, Israel and the Palestinian territories, the peoples of the region were disunited and pagan. Judaism is the world's first, and oldest, monotheistic religion. The Jewish tradition also encompasses the world's oldest, continuous written history, written in a language which is still used today.

Judaism is a religion and there is no such thing as a Jewish race. Today Jews of European, or Caucasian, ancestry outnumber Jews of Middle Eastern origin, in Israel and elsewhere in the world. There are also African Jews and Indian Jews.

The Hebrew Kingdom was the first nation state in the area which became known as Palestine. Over time it attracted a large Greek population since the Ancient Greeks were the world's first great colonizers and had colonies stretching from Cadiz all along the Mediterranean and into the Black Sea where to this day Georgians claim to be of Greek descent. When Greece fell to the Romans, the region became a Roman province and it was the Romans who named it Palestine.

The people of Palestine were predominantly Jewish, with a large contingent of Greek and Roman polytheists. In the time of Our Lord, significant numbers of Greeks, Romans and Jews became Christians although, at that time, Christianity was seen as a Jewish cult, of which there were several, and Jesus as a particularly gifted Rabbi and community leader. The Romans did away with him because they saw him as a revolutionary engaged in a struggle for independence.

Modern Christianity owes a great deal to the Ancient Greeks and the Romans who adapted it to suit their own purposes. Jesus remained a Jew until the day he died and is best remembered as such. Paul (Saul) played a similar role in the evolution of Christianity to that played by Mahomet in the evolution of Islam. Both men modified the Jewish tradition to suit their own political ambitions.

Palestine eventually became part of the Eastern Roman Empire. At that time the inhabitants were mostly Christian or Jew. During the 7th Century the region fell into the hands of the Seljuk Turks who were Islamists. Palestine became a Turkish province, with a mainly Jewish and partly Christian population, and remained so until 1917. During the period of Turkish rule some Arabs from other parts of the Turkish Empire settled in Palestine and some Jews and Christians converted to Islam so that they could join the army and/or the civil service.

Palestine was never, strictly speaking, an Arab territory. During the First World War the British whipped up Arab nationalism, persuading hitherto disunited, feuding tribes to revolt against their Turkish overlords. Among the carrots offered to the Arab nationalists was Palestine, a territory to which they had no legitimate claim although there was an Islamic, largely non-Arab, population.

The British also promised to restore the Jewish nation state in Palestine. For the British it was a cynical attempt to enlist all possible sources of aid and support in the struggle against the Germans and their Turkish allies. The League of Nations in 1919 rewarded the British for their ham-handedness by making them responsible for the mandated territory of Palestine, just as Australia inherited New Guinea from the Germans and the Union of South Africa what is now Namibia.

During the later part of the 19th Century many European Jews returned to Palestine to escape persecution in Eastern and Central Europe. They were welcomed by the Turks who were tolerant, if somewhat idle, rulers. Palestine at that time was the most backward province of the Turkish empire, a region of arid drylands, and malarial coastal marshes. What enterprise there was was mainly down to the Jewish citizens, soon to be joined by Jews from around the world.

The movement to return to Israel accelerated through the last decades of the 19th Century and attracted the interest of American Jews who invested capital and provided know-how gleaned from states like Arizona regarding the profitable development of arid lands. This movement continued into the 20th Century and accelerated with the revival of anti-semitism in Europe during the 1930s. At that time Western leaders began to give serious consideration to the idea of an alternative home for European Jews.

There are few who are not familiar with the events in Germany after 1933, the Second World War and the Holocaust which went on for the worst part of a decade from 1936 to 1945. During this time people of the Jewish faith in all parts of the world, in concert with the Allied governments, recognised the necessity for a Jewish homeland or sanctuary. This was never about race, or nationality, but simply about human rights and religious freedom. Historically, and in every other way, Palestine was the logical choice.

During the 20th Century, however, the so-called 'great powers' had become increasingly dependent on Middle Eastern oil. Palestine (Israel) has no resources to speak of. Its one of the world's great 'knowledge economies', like Switzerland. The problem was the Arab nationalists, who saw themselves as the rightful heirs of the Turks, not that they had done anything to deserve the fruits of Turkish civilization, and the desire of the British and the French to avoid antagonising the Arabs, thereby compromising their oil interests. Typically, as they did years later in the case of Rhodesia, the British dilly dallied and shilly shallied until the people of Palestine, mainly Jewish, took matters into their own hands.

The British faced a considerable challenge at the hands of the Jewish liberation movement in Palestine, some of whom resorted to terrorism. In the end they surrendered their mandate - it was all too hard for a nation all but bankrupt after its magnificent stand against the Nazis - to the newly constituted United Nations.

The United Nations, in its wisdom partitioned Palestine in 1948 on religious lines, between Jew and non-Jew (Christians and Islamists). All would have been well had the Arab nations, who had no rightful claim to any part of Palestine, accepted the decision of the UN. Israel was invaded by a coalition of Iraqi, Syrian, Egyptian and Jordanian troops, most of them trained and equipped by the British. The very recently formed Israeli Defence Force had almost nothing in the way of arms and equipment. At the last minute they were able to source captured German equipment, including aircraft, from Czechoslovakia. The Russians, for reasons of their own, were complicit in this and provided tacit support to the Israelis, as did Jews around the world.

The rest is history. Suffice it to say that the Arab nations, and nations like Iraq (Formerly Persia) which are not Arab, and have no connection with the area later than the empire of Alexander the Great, have sworn to obliterate Israel. This is Islamic fanaticism at its worst, and the only 'rational' objective is surely the Islamification of the planet from Pakistan to Morocco. The only Islamic nation to have any historical claim over Palestine is Turkey, a nation which has long since joined the 'civilized' world and is in line to become a member of the EU. The Turks, needless to say, have more in common with Southern Europeans than the people of the Middle East whom they ruled for the best part of 1200-years.

The present population of Israel have as much right, historically, to be there as any other people in any other part of the world. No country is without a history of migration, settlement and conquest. Most parts of the world have undergone so many changes that so-called racial distinctions are all but meaningless. There are, broadly speaking, certain ethnic types but we all have something of each other in us.

The difficulty faced by the non-Jewish Palestinians, currently struggling for independence, is that their territories are not economically viable. Their future lies in an economic union with Israel. At the moment they are mere pawns in a a game played by fanatics seeking the total obliteration of Israel. That is not going to happen.

Love all, trust a few. Do wrong to none.
- William Shakespeare